Giving birth is one of life’s truly remarkable events. It could also be described as a “peak” physical experience (it’s called labour for reason). Like all physical feats, there are certain techniques and strategies that can help or hinder the process. I devised the following Top 10 labour tips after delivering my two beautiful boys. Combining those experiences with my knowledge of the physiology of labour and expertise in women’s health issues I compiled these tips and I hope you find them helpful for what lies ahead.
Remain present to your sensations and the process. Stay focused on what is happening: rest, contraction. Keep your mind on the job, and have your support person do the same. A task for your support person is to time your contractions and rest periods. This can be enormously helpful for both of you.
2. Positive Mindset
Use words and affirmations to remind you that labour is good pain, healthy pain. Contractions are purely your uterus (muscle) working strongly in combination with your cervix opening to deliver your baby. Each contraction is one contraction closer to meeting your bundle of joy. Strong contractions are good, effective and necessary sensations.
Find synergy between the sensations you feel and the noises that you make. Match the intensity with the vocalisations. The bigger the sensation, the bigger the noise. Deep groans will feel like they vibrate and soothe your uterus during a contraction. Ooooooh and ahhhhhh noises really help, and keeping your mouth open helps to connect with your opening cervix. Avoid high pitch, screeching noises, as they don’t help, and may tighten the pelvic floor muscles.
4. Drop Inhibitions
It is certainly not the time to be worrying about what other people think of you! Stay in your “birthing bubble”, and follow your body. Don’t worry about being too loud, naked, opening your bowels, what you look like….. Stay in your body and don’t worry about anything else. BE BRAVE AND COURAGEOUS!
Keep your spine long (avoid slumping), lean forward slightly & anteriorly tilt your pelvis. It is a good idea to change things up with the above principles throughout your labour, sitting cross legged or legs out long in a bath, using an exercise ball & leaning forward (see picture), 4 point kneeling etc. Have your hands and upper limbs supported, i.e. holding on to or leaning into something helps your pelvis and hips open and relax.
Helps to keep your mind focused on the process. Imagine your baby’s head pressing and opening your cervix. You can combine this with pushing your forehead into an exercise ball through a contraction, and imagining your baby doing the same to your cervix. A wonderful image to use to connect to the birth process. During second stage, you may opt to use a mirror to see your baby’s head start to crown – this can be hugely motivating.
7. Rest well between contractions
To help conserve energy for the labour process. It is just as important to rest well as it is to actively participate in your contractions.
8. Trust your body
If you start to doubt yourself, particularly towards transition stage (8-10cm dilation), remind yourself YOU CAN DO IT and YOU ARE DOING IT! You are more capable, remarkable and powerful then you ever realised. Use these positive words to help you through, and tell your birth partner to do the same.
9. Work with your body
Follow your body’s lead, and work with each contraction. One contraction at a time, let go of the one that just occurred and rest to prepare for the one ahead. In second stage, it is very important to only push with your contraction. Talk with your midwife or obstetrician about sustained stretch in this stage. It is important you control the pushing, so your tissues are adequately warmed up for the head to pass through. This reduces the chance of and degree of tearing. I also highly recommend perineum massage before your first delivery. Firstly to familiarize yourself with what it feels like to have your perineum stretched, and secondly, to increase the elasticity of this region to reduce the degree of injury.
10. Support partner
Pick your birth support partner wisely. They have an impact, and evidence has shown one consistent person can reduce the length of your labour and the need for medical intervention. Labour is a team effort.